Salvation Army Christmas giveaway offers holiday cheer to Crossroads families (Video)
How to help
For more information about the Salvation Army or to donate to the organization, call 361-572-3779 or visit salvationarmyusa.org.
Bits of holiday cheer were evident throughout the Salvation Army - a glimpse of wrapping paper here, an Easy Bake Oven there, a Scrabble game breaking free of its black garbage bag.
The organization's annual Christmas giveaway was Tuesday, which offered bags of toys, clothing and food to about 200 Victoria families in need.
The event is one way the Salvation Army spreads the holiday spirit and ensures no child in Victoria is left without a Christmas, said Major Ernest Lozano, the organization's commanding officer.
The process began in October, when families first filled out applications, he said. It continued as workers made sure names weren't duplicated on other group lists and collected donations from schools, churches and those who gave to the kettle campaign.
Organizers purchased the last of the toys Monday night.
"At the end of the season, we'll be tired," Lozano said from his office. "I'm tired already. But it's a good tired."
All in all, he said, it was a community effort that made a difference to area youths.
"They're not statistics, and they're not numbers," he said. "They're children we're trying to reach with the love of Jesus."
Maria and Samuel Lane, a Victoria couple with four young daughters, were among the families who visited the center at 1306 N. Louis St.
The donations were a welcome gift in a year plagued with medical issues, job loss and an overall financial crunch, Maria Lane said, as she pushed her cart to the car.
She began 2011 with three jobs to meet expenses but lost two along the way, she explained. When her husband's diabetes led to his second leg amputation in June, it also took him out of the job market.
"He actually worked with the Salvation Army for a while, ringing a bell for some money at Christmas," she said. "But his power chair gave out, so he had to give up that job."
She said the organization's gift meant her children could wake up to gifts on Christmas Day.
"Without this, there wouldn't be anything for them," she said.
The Victoria West High School softball team was on hand throughout the day, giving out donations, loading up food and helping however possible.
Darian Vasquez, a team member on food duty, said the team wanted to get together as a whole to help out the community.
"We planned it out during school and just wanted to give back," she said as she and her friends visited. "We're having fun."
Sisters Andrea and Mary Lou Flores picked up their donations about 10 a.m.
Between the two of them, there are seven children in the house, Andrea Flores said. And between buying the necessities to paying bills and handling other expenses, money gets tight around the holidays.
"I'm working, and I'm not able to get toys for my kids," the single mother of three said. "I thank God they have this help."
She said she makes sure the family always has presents under the tree, but said her children are thankful for whatever they receive.
"They're not picky," she said with a smile.
As for the Lanes, Mom had big plans Tuesday to get presents under the tree while her kiddos were with the sitter.
"I already told them we didn't have money for presents this year," she said. "This will be a big surprise."
Gifts or no gifts, a comment from her youngest daughter, 9-year-old Monica, led her to believe the family would have been happy either way.
"She told me, 'It's just like my teacher taught us,'" Maria Lane said. "'Christmas is not about us. It's for Jesus.'"